Coming Out Later In Life: Are You Curious or Serious?

by Mary Gorham Malia

Coming out? When did you come out?

It’s a common question in the land of queer. How long have you been out? Are you all the way out? Does your family know? Do your coworkers know? Do your friends know? Who knows and who doesn’t know? How committed are you to the lifestyle? Loving women and living as a woman lover?

There are lots of unspoken rules in the land of queer. And depending on the unspoken and unwritten rules, you’ll succeed or fail in some significant ways.

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Mary Malia - Your Gay Girl Dating Coach

Are you femme? Are you butch? Are you something in between? Have you ever been with a man? Were you married? Do you have kids? Did you like sex with a man? Do you miss it? Do you like penetration? Do you hate the idea of penetration? How many partners have you had? And on it goes.

These are just a few of the questions that come up between women in the process of exploring relationship. It all depends on your past and what’s happened. It depends on the woman on the other side of the table and what her past is about. Our experiences shape our present and determine our futures.  Do guys ask these questions? Damn if I know. I’m not a guy and I haven’t been hanging out that close to gay men to find out.

As a woman who came out later in life, I’ve met lesbians that don’t want to date me because there is an ex-husband and children. I’ve also met women that wanted to date me and in spite of my being honest and upfront about my past had issues with the ex-husband and my children as time went on.

Sometimes it feels like there is no winning for losing in some conversations. I continue to meet many women that have come out later in life. It’s a phenomenon that I think we will always see. Perhaps it will happen less when sperm donation becomes an easier and less expensive option for younger women. But it’s also going to take a lot more work being done on equal rights for both men and women to decide they don’t need to “pretend to be straight” to have a family and kids.

But what I really want to say here today is that coming out later in life is not simple. It’s not easy either. It’s definitely not what most women expect when they decide to come out. I’ve had more than a few conversations with women who had an idea in their head about what it would be like to finally come out. To leave their husbands and their marriage and risk all to be with a woman.

I admit that the movie I was running in my head when I came out was not at all what happened in real life. My movie included me and a woman I viewed as beautiful being together. We had a sweet house and animals and maybe a child or two (one was mine and the other her’s) who got along so well. We had beautiful music playing all the time, we always wanted to do the same things at the same time, we moved and breathed at the same pace and believed all the same things about life. She was soft. Soft lips with no pointy prickly beard bristles and we would melt into each other’s soft bodies to make love that would last for hours.

Oh and did I mention that there would be beautiful music playing all the time. It would just be in the air, like the smell of ylang ylang when you walk into a spa. And we would talk softly and about deep things except for the times when we would laugh with abandon. And did I mention that there would always be romantic music playing, floating through the air.

We’d be so happy and content. We’d enjoy and share all that life has to offer. Even enjoying all the same foods and sharing dinners together every evening.

Did I mention that this didn’t happen? No, it didn’t happen for me. It’s not my story of coming out. In my story, yes I fell in love and then my heart was broken. Now that’s not unusual is it? My first love didn’t want me after all. It didn’t take long, just 3 short months and that first love had fallen apart. She had warned me that there was a process to coming out and she’d been there and done it. She also at one point talked about wanting to share this season of my life with me, but that didn’t happen. We parted ways and I was off to figure it out on my own.

What a mess I felt I’d created. I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of changes after being married for 21 years. No one had really helped me understand the “rules” of the lesbian community and when I ran into them face first, it was one more thing that broke my heart. I just didn’t understand why women didn’t want to get to know me or be friends. Ok, I was pretty naive. I’d forgotten about 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade girls. Yeah, it can be just like that if you’re trying to hang out with the wrong crowd.

The therapist I was seeing actually fell asleep on me one day. Yes, really. That was the end of that relationship. It was one more thing that hurt too deeply. I moved into a neighborhood that was very gay friendly with plenty of queers living there. Actually it was the same neighborhood my exe girlfriend was living in. She’d wanted me to live close but at the point of my moving just three blocks from her, she broke up with me.

So I’m living in this really queer friendly part of town, but still I wasn’t able to easily meet women for friendship and just to hang out. It was still before the days of and dating sites where just coming online. It was a lonely place to be at that time for me.

I’m sure one issue was that I looked too straight. I looked like someone who’d been married and was heterosexual. Well that makes sense right. I’d only been out for a year and I was still finding my way out of the old world and slowly walking into a new world with its own set of rules and expectations.

My experience of the lesbian world in those first few years showed me that its as full of rules as the heterosexual world. It’s just that the rules are different and sometimes particularly surprising for a newbie to the land of queer. One of those unspoken rules is that a woman that came out when she was young and is now a bit older often doesn’t want to date women who are just coming out of long term heterosexual relationships.

Like many late to the game lesbians, I was hurt by this “rule” when I first learned about it. As my lesbian life experience has grown, I now get it.  It makes complete sense to me that life long lesbians just want to protect their hearts from women who may just be curious versus serious. There’s a lot of video and TV time being given to the idea of two women being together. In the land of queer where the lesbians live, its not a game show or a reality show, it’s real life with real hearts and real emotions.

For those of you that have realized late in life that you must own your self and that your truth is living as lesbian, I salute you. You will and have taken many brave steps to get to where you are. This in no way diminishes the courage of the women that have always lived their lives out in the open. The truth is that the courage of those that have always taken a stance for lesbian freedom are our heroines. Those are the women that helped me finally realize that I must live my truth. Thank you again for you courage, for your lives lived in the open and your voices.

Additionally have some mercy for the late to life lesbians as we stumble and perhaps bumble about trying to figure out what to do and with who and when. You are probably tired of women like me, but we’re not going away. Actually you can probably expect more and more of us to be showing up and in that deluge of late to life lesbians, we will be able to solve the problem of there not being enough lesbians to date!

How’s that for a turn-around?


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